Senate set to pass new passport bill

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The Department of Foreign Affairs should prepare for the issuance of regular Philippine passports that will be valid for 10 years instead of five, a lawmaker said on Sunday.

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The House of Representatives approved on third and final reading the proposed new Philippine Passport Act on February 13. The Senate is set to approve the bill on third reading on Monday.

“Hopefully by January 1 at the latest, everybody can start getting passports that are valid for 10 years,” Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel, one of the principal authors of the bill, said in a statement.

Sen. Cynthia Villar said she expects no prolonged debates at the bicameral conference committee as the House version passed in February is the same as the Senate’s.

But Villar said the five-year validity of passports of minors or those under 18 years old will be retained.

“A minor’s passport should be renewed every five years because a minor’s facial features changes while growing up,” she explained.

“This gives the DFA around six months to put in order the seamless issuance of the new passports beginning next year,” Pimentel said.

He added that he is counting on the designation of Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano as the new Foreign Affairs Secretary to ease the transition to the new passport.

Extending the validity of Philippine passport to 10 years will not affect the government revenues and will greatly benefit migrant workers as they travel outside the country for employment, Villar said in a statement on Sunday.

“The 10-year validity will not have a significant impact on government revenues given the 30 percent annual growth in passport issuance from year 2010 to 2016,” she said.

“Much relief will be provided our overseas Filipino workers once the need to renew their passports every five years is removed. There will be less need for them to be subjected to the cumbersome and time-consuming process of applying for renewal,” Villar said.

The 10-year validity is also in keeping with the standard practice in other countries such as the United States, United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand.

NIKKI DELOS REYES

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